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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2339

Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (6.14 p.m.) —The Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) asked me what criteria I would use to draw the line. I am happy to answer that question. I would wait for evidence of the impact of enterprise bargaining on women. I want to see that women's wages, compared with men's wages, are on the long-term trend upwards. I wait for evidence of improved employment prospects for women 50 and over—not positions clustered in casual and part-time work without pro rata conditions, but positions with options to accrue meaningful superannuation. I wait for evidence that men and women are accruing similar amounts of superannuation payouts. I wait for evidence of greater attitudinal change, of which the minister spoke earlier, in sharing the responsibilities of parenthood and caring for extended family members.

  Some 10 years ago the Labor government assured us that deregulation of the financial institutions would bring great improvements to banking. We were told there would be competitive interest rates and fantastic service. I do not think that promise was delivered—a great leap of faith was required. Furthermore, the Labor government promised that deregulation of the airlines would mean three airlines, incredibly competitive fares and so on. Well, we do not have three airlines and we do not have the lowest fares we could have. Indeed, we are back to the two-airline policy. Now we have deregulation of the labour market. The minister cannot blame me for being a bit sceptical about what this government promises will happen for women actually happening. The minister should not ask us to take everything on faith. Why can we not wait a little longer until the evidence is clearer before we take this step?

  The minister has said that our daughters will enjoy vastly different conditions and she is right to say that. I am not sure that they will be necessarily better but they certainly will be different. That is the end of the cycle. What about the beginning of the cycle? That is where my problem lies.

  I have received a lot of calls today and would like to relate one of them. A woman now aged 55 who married at 25 and had worked in a bank was forced by the bank to resign when she married. That woman has become unskilled, as she refers to it, over the years and now cares full time for an 88-year-old mother who is crippled and a 92-year-old aunt who is blind. The woman who called me wants to do that. But she asked me whether she is now expected to go out to search for work, and, if she finds it, pay somebody else to do the caring? Is that the ultimate policy goal that the minister is hoping to achieve because she thinks it is better for such people to be in the work force? This woman is asking what she should do. I am asking the minister what she would tell her to do.